The gauzy layers of reverb that swaddle Victoria Legrand’s voice roll in like a fog bank, but it never sounds like she’s hiding anything about her singing. You might find yourself straining to make out the rare intelligible lyric that pops out of the tinkling chamber-pop haze, but then again maybe not. You might even spin Devotion three or four times before you start to notice that every single song counts off at roughly the same, stolid mid-tempo. Most likely you won’t mind, though. That’s the kind of peculiar spell Legrand and multi-instrumentalist partner Alex Scally weave on their second outing as Beach House.
For their second album, the Baltimore duo has expanded their bare-bones arrangements and instrumentation, draping sighing slide guitars, humming and tinkling keyboards, and jangling percussion over the tracks like so many scarves over a lamp. This sort of lacy late-Saturday-into-Sunday-morning pop has been around since, well, the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning,” and, like most mood music, a lot of it loses its appeal once the mood passes. Spend some time with Devotion, however, and its gentle hooks—the fuzz guitar lines booming softly in the background of “Wedding Bell” and “Heart of Chambers,” the sudden updrafts of vocal melody that buoy “Heart of Chambers” and sublime set peak “Holy Dances”—catch you up before you even know you’re snagged. Beach House even manages to make what sounds like an organ from a store in the mall sound both funky and gorgeous on “Astronaut.” (The surrounding lattice of melodies, harmonies, and hooks helps.)
Legrand and Scally rescue Daniel Johnston’s “Some Things Last a Long Time” from one of his more obscure albums for Devotion, and although their version seems to cut off too soon, the choice of cover is perfect; the song’s air of nostalgia and bittersweet yearning fits right in. It’s too soon to tell whether this is timeless music a la the VU, but it creates, and recreates, its own particular time and ephemeral feel quite well.